An under-manned and cold-shooting Duke team fell to Syracuse 95-91, in overtime Monday night.
The loss was Duke’s first at home this season, the first in the ACC and ended a nine-game winning streak.
Duke played the entire game without Cameron Reddish, the star of Saturday’s win at Florida State. Mike Krzyzewski said that Reddish began showing flu-like symptoms right before the game. His status for Saturday’s game against Virginia is unknown.
Even without Reddish, Duke exploded out of the blocks, scoring the game’s first dozen points.
“Our kids were so ready to play,” Krzyzewski says. “They were playing their butts off.”
Then, in the blink of an eye, the game and perhaps the season took a huge step back.
Tre Jones keyed Duke’s early run with four steals in a span of four minutes. With Duke up 14-6, Jones and Syracuse’s Frank Howard dove for a lose ball. Howard got the foul, Jones got the worst of it.
Krzyzewski said Jones suffered “a shoulder sprain” and could be “out awhile.” Krzyzewski said Jones was in “a lot of pain” and told the training staff he thought he had broken his collarbone.
He did not return.
Krzyzewski said his team didn’t respond well to the adversity.
“I didn’t think we handled when it all happened in the first half, especially Tre going out, we were knocked back. It gives them a lot of confidence and they’re already good. I didn’t think we handled it as well as I would have want.”
Krzyzewski said the losses of Reddish and Jones threw away much of Duke’s game plan.
“The game plan was to have Tre Jones and Cameron Reddish. When you get two guys hurt and injured, there is no game plan anymore. You’re trying to figure out ways to win. There is no game plan once that happens.”
Led by Tyus Battle’s 20 first-half points, Syracuse caught up at 29, took their first lead at 35-33 and then fell behind 49-45.
The final seconds of the first half were an unmitigated disaster. Duke got the ball with about 33 seconds left, not long enough to hold for the final shot but pretty darn close.
But the Blue Devils had a shot-clock violation, stopping the clock with 2.7 seconds left. Elijah Hughes took the in-bounds pass, dribbled and buried the 70-footer.
Instead of six or seven-point halftime lead, Duke led only 49-48.
Jack White admitted that shot hurt.
“It was a bit discouraging. Obviously, what are the chances?”
Still, Duke built its second-half lead to eight, at 67-59.
But with Reddish and Jones out, Duke was playing some funky match-ups, White guarding Battle, Alex O’Connell trying to check Howard, R.J. Barrett initiating the offense.
“There’s a burden that’s placed on he and Zion in that situation because they know they have to carry more,” Krzyzewski says of Barrett and Williamson. “ The fact that they tried to do that, I like that. They weren’t successful enough to win. But the fact that they stepped up and put it on the line, I loved that.”
Williamson was almost unstoppable when he got the ball inside. But Syracuse gradually squeezed their trademark zone, daring Duke to make 3s.
Everybody concerned said Duke got good shots.
“In the second half we shot like crazy,” Krzyzewski said. “We missed so many open shots.”
“I thought we had some good looks,” White added. “I thought I had some good looks. But we just couldn’t seem to make anything. I missed some good looks and they made some tough shots. That’s the game of basketball, I guess.”
“It was just the shots that were there,” Barrett said. “They just weren’t falling for us tonight. We just missed shots. We can score against their zone. We just missed shots.”
Well, live by the jumper, die by the jumper, I suppose. Duke shot 9-for-43 from beyond the arc, White missing all 10 of his jumpers, Barrett going 4-for-17.
The ending of regulation had an eerie similarity to the FSU finish. Down by a point, Zion Williamson drew the foul. He made the first foul shot, tying the game at 85. But he missed the second and this time Duke could not come up with the rebound.
Syracuse missed at the buzzer but controlled the overtime, Duke leading only once, 88-87, on an O’Connell 3-pointer.
It’s easy to pin the overtime woes on fatigue. Barrett played 45 minutes, Williamson 44, while White, O’Connell and Marques Bolden all played career highs in minutes. But Battle and Hughes also played 45 minutes, while Howard did not sit out during the second half. But Syracuse’s tired players were doing the things they’re accustomed to doing, while Duke wasn’t.
“A very unusual night,” Krzyzewski summed up. “A lot of adversity. Life happens and life happened to our team tonight.”
Williamson had a career-high 35 points, 12-for-20 from the field, 10-14 from the line, that big miss at the end casting a shadow on a monster game.
Barrett was 9-30 from the field but had 16 rebounds and nine assists, barely missing Duke’s fourth-ever triple double.
Bolden, with 12 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks and O’Connell, with 16 points and three rebounds, took advantage of their opportunity.
White did not. He got the start, with Reddish out but simply couldn’t get anything to drop. He did have six rebounds and five assists, before fouling out.
Jim Boeheim credited his team’s win to the revitalized play of 7-2 Paschal Chukwu, who came into the game averaging a modest 3.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. But Chukwu came off the bench for 10 points, 18 rebounds and three blocks, scoring Syracuse’s final four points.
Battle ended with 28 points, Hughes 20, Howard 16.
- No. 1 Duke Falls to Syracuse 95-91 in OT
- Box Score (PDF)
- Tre Jones suffers right shoulder sprain, exits Duke men’s basketball’s game vs. Syracuse
- No. 1 Duke men’s basketball falls to Syracuse, battling poor shooting and injuries
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- Watch Jim Boeheim’s news conference after Syracuse basketball’s win at Duke
- Video: Syracuse’s Elijah Hughes hits ridiculous full-court shot at Duke
- No. 1 Duke takes first ACC loss in overtime to Syracuse, 95-91
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Alex O’ Connell
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